Thursday, February 17

Review: Yellow Submarine

The Beatles' seventh album, Revolver, is often regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. It has a wide array of downright spectacular songs, like Eleanor Rigby and For No One. And it closes all of this off with the mysterious Tomorrow Never Knows. The song starts with a sitar fading in. Then a drum comes in, which plays a rhythm that's just a little off. It all sounds just a little beyond what you're accustomed to. And then we hear John Lennons voice, made to sound "like the dalai lama chanting from a mountain top", who tells you to "Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream".

From the mid-sixties to 1970, The Beatles were unquestionably the biggest band on earth. They radically changed popular music and their albums from that time are absolute classics which are still very much worth listening to. But it wasn't just John, Paul, George and Ringo that did new stuff during this time: art, literature, social politics and science where all undergoing rapid changes. It was a turbulent age, and many people tried to make sense of/escape from all this by using drugs.

Yellow Submarine was released in 1968, right in the middle of all this weirdness going on. It was made primarily to meet a contractual agreement, and The Beatles themselves had very little to do with it. But since the filmmakers had the license for their music it was pretty clear that it would be a hit from the start. And while this might give some filmmakers an excuse to get lazy, the makers of Yellow Submarine rose to the opportunity and made one of the nicest films ever.

Just look how happy they are

Yellow Submarine works completely on it's own logic. There is something of a story beneath all the weirdness, but it's barely relevant. The majority of the movie is spent in the submarine, where the band encounters a crapload of strange stuff. The movie seems to be very exited about all this. Like an eager child, it's just tumbling over itself to show you all the nifty stuff it's got. And it's very nifty indeed. The journey goes through a sea filled with monsters where a vacuummonster is sucking up the entire world around him, a universe which is made entirely out of holes (Ringo takes on with him and quips "I have a hole in me pocket") and the final destination: Pepperland, a mystical place filled with music and love which has sadly been taken over by the Blue Meanies. The only way to rescue the inhabitants, who have been turned to stone, is to play music (which is outlawed under the Meanies' brutal reign).

Speaking of music: I can't remember ever enjoying these songs as much as when watching Yellow Submarine. These are some of the best songs of all time, and the accompanying visuals just fit them like a boot. In contrast to A Hard Days Night, which was primarily about the band, this movie is all about the music, and so much better for it. When I'm Sixty-Four, which isn't one of the bands best songs is accompanied by a text reading "Sixty-four years is 33,661,440 minutes and one minute is a long time. Allow us to demonstrate." This is followed by an array of imaginatively drawn numbers counting up to 64. This made me so intensely happy I started singing along even louder.

If this all sounds a bit childish, it's probably because it is. But d on't make the mistake to think that this movie is solely meant for children. Much like the music it's a universal piece of art. If you as a viewer can let go of trivial stuff like "logic" or "sense" this is a very, very lovely film that I can highly recommend. Don't go acting all grown-up about it. Just turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.


This is the closest I think I can come to the spirit of the movie without just using songs from it. Enjoy.

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